As the weather gets colder, drying your clothes efficiently becomes a problem.
If you’ve got a tumble dryer, there’s no doubt that this gets used more when it’s not possible to hang your laundry outside. I know it does in our household.
But with the cost of living crisis and energy bills at an all-time high, it’s wise to ask how much energy does a tumble dryer use.
You’ll want to make sure your tumble dryer is as energy efficient as possible and that your using your energy effectively.
So, I’ve taken a closer look at how much energy a standard tumble dryer actually uses – and the results are quite shocking!
How much energy do tumble dryers use?
As it turns out, tumble dryers are some of the most energy demanding household appliances. A single tumble dryer cycle can use as much as 5kW of energy!
This is a far cry from other more energy efficient kitchen items such as eco friendly kettles (0.05kW), microwaves (0.7kW per hour) and our old favourite the efficient slow cooker (0.16kW per hour).
It’s also way more than other electric appliances such as energy efficient TVs, which can cost as little as 2p a day for 5 hours use.
However, different types of tumble dryers come with different energy consumption specs.
Let’s start with two of the most inefficient, the classic washer dryer and the vented tumble dryer.
Washer dryers vs tumble dryers
Washer dryers use more energy to dry your clothes than specialist tumble dryers. This makes buying two separate appliances the better choice in the long term for saving energy.
In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 75% of a washers carbon footprint comes from drying alone.
A conventional 9kg vented tumble dryer will use around 5.34 kWh to dry a full load. A condenser tumble dryer of the same size and capacity is just slightly less energy demanding, consuming an average of 5.20 kWh per full load.
Heat pump tumble dryers, on the other hand, are considered the most energy efficient of the bunch. They use only about 2.16 kWh per full load.
This means heat pump dryers are the most eco friendly choice for your drying needs — largely thanks to its water recycling features.
Tumble dryer running costs
So, what’s the best choice for an energy efficient tumble dryer?
If you’re looking to cut costs and make your weekly laundry more eco friendly, there’s no better option than a heat pump tumble dryer.
Currently, the price per kWh of energy use in the UK is 34p.
So, if you have a heat pump tumble dryer that uses about 2 kWh per load to dry your clothes, running costs will be about 68p each cycle.
A conventional condenser tumble dryer will cost around £1.77 per full load.
The running costs per cycle of a vented tumble dryer are even more expensive, coming up at £1.82 per load.
Even though heat pump tumble dryers are generally over 50% more expensive than other options, you will still end up saving hundreds on your energy bills in the long run.
How is this energy used? How do tumble dryers work, exactly?
When it’s not possible to put your laundry outside on the washing line to let the sun and wind do their thing, tumble drying is one the most favourable methods to dry your clothes.
As we’ve seen though, running a tumble dryer isn’t cheap.
Tumble dryers use the power of an electric motor and fan to heat up the chamber (drum) and dry your clothes.
However, not all tumble dryers are the same.
There are actually four main types you can choose from:
1. Condenser tumble dryer
Condenser tumble dryers rely on condensation. They produce steam by stripping the moisture from your clothes and let it condense inside the chamber, rather than using hot air.
The fan helps the condensed steam circulate inside the chamber until your laundry is dry, while the extracted moisture is collected into a water tank, placed just above the dryer.
These dryers are usually more expensive to run and much less efficient, as they take longer to dry your clothes than vented tumble dryers.
2. Vented tumble dryer
This is the most used type of tumble dryer out there. Vented tumble dryers are considered the standard in tumble drying and they are also the cheapest options to run.
The appliance uses chamber-generated heat and a fan to dry your clothes, and the excess moisture is filtered out through a hose, usually fitted into a vent.
The addition of laundry eco eggs helps to separate your clothes as they tumble so the hot air can circulate more freely.
3. Heat pump tumble dryer
Heat pump tumble dryers are a more energy efficient take on traditional condenser dryers.
They use a heat pump to produce hot air inside the chamber and dry your clothes much more gently than other types of tumble dryers.
Like with conventional condenser dryers, heat pump tumble dryers use a water tank to collect the steam, but they differ in the fact that the cooled air collected from the process is instead recycled for the next drying cycle. As a fan of sustainability, we always like recycling.
This feature makes the appliance the best choice for an energy efficient tumble dryer!
4. Washer dryer
Finally, we have the most common type of dryer – the washer dryer.
Combining a washing machine with a tumble dryer in one handy appliance, washer dryers don’t take up extra space and can help you save money upfront.
However, they’re much less energy efficient than tumble dryers!
Are tumble dryers eco friendly?
Although heat pump dryers are the best option for saving energy, you can’t really consider tumble dryers to be eco friendly appliances.
Tumble drying is an energy intensive process with little benefit besides getting your clothes dry in the quickest way. Some of the cheaper models (including washer dryers) can even damage your clothes meaning you’ll have to buy more, more often.
The cheapest and most environmentally conscious way to dry your clothes is to let them dry naturally on the line or a rack. Bring on that free solar and wind energy!
That said, leaving in the UK during the winter months makes putting your clothes outside much more difficult.
Should you use a tumble dryer?
So, if we want to save on both running costs and energy consumption, the best way to dry your clothes will be to only run your dryer during winter. Stick to natural drying for the rest of the year.
You’ll also want to use the most energy efficient tumble dryer. Out of them all, the heat pump dryer is the most efficient. For all models make sure you opt for models rated A+ and above on the energy efficiency scale.
More expensive models will also come with special energy saving features, such as sensor drying and temperature control, which will allow you to use just the right amount of energy you need for each load.
Making an investment on the most efficient dryer will save you plenty of money and lower your home’s carbon footprint, even if it’s not the perfect solution!
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I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home. Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.